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Joint Committee Proceedings (Okehampton Bypass)

Volume 74: debated on Wednesday 27 February 1985

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3.33 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Along with two other hon. Members I have been placed with three noble Lords on the Joint Committee on the petition of general objection against the two Okehampton bypass compulsory purchase orders. That Committee is established under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945. My point of order concerns the way in which the proceedings of that Committee commenced yesterday and this morning.

I must explain why the Committee is considering a matter which was the subject of a public inquiry as long ago as 1979, which lasted no fewer than 96 days and which finally led to a report of more than 600 pages.

The Secretary of State announced his decision to confirm that report on 16 September 1983. Unfortunately, the road crosses land known as open space which would have to be compulsorily acquired. The failure to provide adequate compensatory land — we are talking about a small acreage—

Order. This is not a point of order for me. I do not think that I am responsible for anything that the hon. Member is now talking about.

I am seeking to give, as briefly as I can, the background to the substance of my point of order.

This procedure has allowed objectors, with help from the other place, to bring to the attention of the Joint Committee the adequacy or otherwise of the compensation under the Acquisition of Land Act 1981. The Committee is quite reasonably required to resolve that matter. However, in practice what is happening is that the whole planning inquiry is being re-run upstairs in that Committee.

My complaint is that the petitioner has started to conduct the inquiry all over again, basing his right to do so on the acceptance of his petition by, in our case, the Chairman of Ways and Means.

I shall not trouble you—

Order. There is a very important debate to follow this, and these are matters which do not concern me.

Although I accept the fact that it is right for this House, in conjunction with the other place, to be required to assist to protect the rights of individuals in relation to open space, I am raising a very serious point. If planning inquiries can be brought to this place and re-run from start to finish, the statutory procedures applying to the Government's purchase of land are threatened.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you can assist me in ensuring that this matter is dealt with by the Select Committee on Procedure in order to avoid that most undesirable happening. If you are so able to help me, I hope your advice will be that the Committee should adjourn until the Select Committee on Procedure has dealt with the matter.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because he was kind enough to give me notice of his point of order and I have been able to look into it in great detail.

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has asked me to take an action which is beyond my power. I have no power to direct a Committee to adjourn. Nor have I any power to refer a matter that is before one Committee to another Committee, so I cannot refer it to the Procedure Committee.

The Joint Committee is proceeding under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945, as amended, as the hon. Gentleman said, and under Standing Orders. Therefore, I cannot help the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry.